Place of Origin: Portuguese Macau or Goa
Date: 16th century
A large bronze Asian ‘Lantaka’ breach loading swivel cannon.
The general form takes that of a traditional Lantaka, with a ‘Sangka’ (swivel) attached to the trunnions (projecting lugs on both sides of the lower barrel), enabling the cannon to be located securely into a base or carriage. The cannon can then be manoeuvred laterally as well as up and down. Lantaka were intended for use on merchant vessels travelling the waterways of the Malay Archipelago and this important example must have been used on a large ship of significant status.
The very unusual open ‘boat shaped’ breach would have accepted a pre-loaded breach block (now missing), but in its hollow state is visually striking and the entire breach area is decorated with beautiful floral mouldings. The midsection of the barrel is hexagonal and rest is smooth, two rows of decorative V shaped panels point towards the muzzle. The barrel has a stylised dragon spine with protruding spikes. Quite distinctive wide breach slots, and a scrolling loop (for carrying?) on one side. A pot shaped cascabel sits at the end.
The cannon takes the overall shape of a dragon (naga), and the muzzle is in the form of the dragons head with gaping mouth, scaled cheeks and a central crest, the rear of the cannon has a scaled curled tail.
A pair of birds sit on the ‘sangka’ above the trunions, a feature identical to a breach loading cannon in the Brunei museum, see Shariffuddin/Wells plate XLVI, p.41 and p.21, at the time of publication the authors were not aware of the exact origin of the cannon, but state it was purchased by the museum from Sipitang in the southern part of Sabah, outside of Brunei.
Set on a custom made contemporary stand.
A bronze swivel cannon with similar boat shaped open breach and moulded decoration is currently in the Shoko Shuseikan Museum, Kagoshima, Japan (see Turnbull 2003, p.111 and p.209). It is likely to be one of two Portuguese cannons that were presented to Ōtomo Sōrin Yoshishige (1530-1587) by the Portuguese in 1551 (see Lidin, p.156 and p.249). Sōrin was a Japanese feudal lord (daimyo) of the Ōtomo clan, and one of the few to have converted to Roman Catholicism (Christianity). The other cannon is said to be in the Yasukuni Shrine in Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. They are said to 16th century and were nicknamed Kunikuzushi ‘Destroyer of Provinces’, their use by the Japanese is documented well (see Turnbull 2005 p.20-21), as is the relationship of the Portuguese and Sōrin (see Lidin p.157, 173-177).
The Kunikuzushi cannon that were presented to Sōrin were likely made in the Portuguese Royal foundries at Maccau or Goa, and the striking similarities between them and the Lantaka cannon shown here suggest they were made at the same location and to a similar design.